With two months of meetings and one budget under the belt of the new city council, the St. Albert Gazette caught up with each council member about what’s coming in 2018 and what they’ve learned so far. Each council member will be featured in upcoming issues.
Coming out of a rollercoaster of a year, St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron is looking forward to the smoother ride ahead.
City council faces plenty of hurdles in 2018 – from facing the results of October’s plebiscite to considering how to move forward on Smart City, Lakeview Business District and homelessness – but Heron believes those issues will be made more manageable by a council united.
“This is a very hard-working council,” she said, reflecting on how much time new councillors have been putting into doing their homework on motions, reports and other city-related matters.
In the new year, Heron expects to see council streamline its approach to meetings and set some ground rules regarding how councillors put motions forward and how much notice they give administrative staff on questions.
Looking back on 2017, Heron describes the past year as an emotional one. Much of her focus – and certainly the year’s highlight – was the municipal election and her successful bid for mayor.
“I’ve been thinking in my head the whole year about what I would do the same as (former mayor Nolan Crouse) … and what I would do differently,” she said.
“I think already, in the first two months, things have changed noticeably in the way things are going at City Hall. I’m still learning, though.”
Some of the lessons have come faster than others: during her inaugural speech on Oct. 30, Heron declared her desire to end homelessness in St. Albert. The announcement came as a surprise to some councillors and residents.
Heron said the impetus for that announcement came after the election was over, when she attended a community conversation on homelessness.
“I thought, we’ve got to do something on this. And then I honestly said to myself – I’m the mayor. I can do something,” she said.
“It was a total epiphany moment for me. So there’s a little more you can accomplish as the mayor.”
With the new position comes a slew of new responsibilities in the form of committees and civic engagements. Heron sits on the intermunicipal annexation negotiating committee, which oversees annexation talks with Sturgeon County, the internal audit committee, the quasi-judicial standing committee, Global Edmonton and the Edmonton/St. Albert Regional Commuter System Service Task Force.
She also sits on the executive for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), as well as AUMA’s sustainability and environment committee.
For AUMA, she expects much of her work to focus on lobbying the province to update its municipal sustainability initiative grant funding.
“We’re really hoping that it will be potentially written into legislation so it’s not at the whim of the budget process,” she said.
“The Municipal Government Act is forcing us to do multi-year budgeting, but it’s hard to do (that) if you don’t know your multi-year revenue sources.”